Bkool FAQ last major update 05/01/2016 10:30 General observations and opinions, culled from questions and discussion on this forum by many users, with years of experience of the bkool software as it has evolved! Offered with no warranty or guarantees, and no claims to be the definitive resource. Please refer to Bkool and the Bkool website for the most accurate and up to date guidance. Always ride safely, even indoors! It is possible to train much harder on a trainer than outdoors and as always, medical advice should be taken if in any doubt. Bkool Online Help The Bkool web site has a help section which you should check out http://www.bkool.com/help/home For the website help is here ... http://www.bkool.com/help/viewCategoryArticles?categoryId=3183§ionName=web For the Simulator help is here ... http://www.bkool.com/help/viewCategoryArticles?categoryId=3182§ionName=simulator The online manuals for the Bkool trainers are here ... http://www.bkool.com/help/viewCategoryArticles?categoryId=3181§ionName=trainer Choosing a trainer for Bkool The Bkool simulator works with a range of turbo trainers, with a range of capabilities and prices. It is not possible to make a general recommendation of which particular trainer will suit every person. Anyone wanting advice should be able to find plenty of info online, including the well regarded www.dcrainmaker.com, where he posts regular reviews of most of the trainers on the market and news of any new comers. I think it is worth making a few comments here, though. 1) If you think your primary use of the trainer will be with the Bkool software, and particularly if you want to join in the highly motivating multi-player rides, you will probably be best served by getting a Bkool Pro trainer. Other makes of trainer are unfortunately not currently implemented in exactly the same way, and this can result in large differences in simulation, for example on descents, where you will not currently benefit from gravity assist and be unable to keep up with bkool pro users, or on climbs where maximum gradient simulation can vary widely, particularly for heavier riders. 2) If you can afford it, get a smart trainer with resistance that can be controlled from the simulator. 3) If you want to train on climbs, you should consider the trainer's maximum resistance, especially if you are above average weight. In this case, avoid the cheaper trainers with limited ability to simulate steep gradients. Beware marketing claims of maximum wattage, as these only really apply at very high speeds, and claims of UP TO specified gradients, as these very much depend on the riders weight. The Bkool Pro claims to simulate UP TO 20%, but in reality this is only for the very lightest riders. Average weight riders will find they reach a maximum resistance around 10-12% and heavier riders (as some new comers may well be) can experience maximums as low as 6-7%. Other trainer's limits can be lower. Initial Setup 1) Get a Fan 2) Get a bigger fan 3) Make sure you pump up your rear tyre! It is generally considered helpful to have as narrow and slick/sticky a tyre as possible, pumped up to its maximum rated pressure (usually printed on the side of the tyre). If the tyre is soft and/or deeply treaded it can be difficult to generate power. 4) Get a USB extension lead and use it to place the ANT+ dongle around the front of the trainer, near the bottom bracket, so it is close to the trainer, any candence sensor and any heart rate sensor, etc. 5) If you are relying on WiFi and it is giving you problems, consider using powerline adapters to connect to your router via the mains wiring, this tends to give a more stable connection. AV500 or faster seem to work very well. 6) If you would like an accurate measure of your cadence get an ANT+ cadence sensor, as the built-in cadence of the bkool pro is only an estimate (and is often half what it should be). Note: Do not use a speed sensor, as the bkool (and other) trainers measure the speed from the roller. 7) An ANT+ heart rate sensor is a useful addition. The Garmin one works fine, as do many others. Preparation to ride 1) Be properly hydrated before you start a session and have cold water on standby to drink. 2) Warm up really well. Start slowly and gently and raise your heart rate gradually. This allows time for muscles to warm up and blood vessels to dilate and should reduce the risk of injury and early fatigue. 3) Don't over dress. Try and train in an environment with air flow. As well as at least one fan, if possible open windows. On a stationery trainer it is very easy to over heat and this can reduce performance and increase heart rate and risk of injury. If you are drenched in sweat during or after a ride, then you are likely over heating and not performing at your optimum. Introduction to Bkool The Bkool system is split between several elements 1) the Bkool web site (www.bkool.com) This is where you manage your account, search for and schedule rides, check out your progress and interact with other users. You have to register to set up an account on the web site before you can do anything else. First set up your profile, including your age, weight, etc. and then you can download the simulator software. You mainly select and schedule rides in the web site, and then find them in the programmed tab in the simulator. Sessions can be set-up before scheduling, where other Players; Bots (programmed riders) and/or Ghosts (recreations of previous rides by you or other riders) can be added and Splits or Targets added or modified. You can search for courses that you would like in the Bkool web site in the Sessions section, and then schedule them by Distance or Time. If you search by distance, Sessions are scheduled by distance, if you search by time, sessions are scheduled by time. You would normally schedule by distance, as this means that a ride is as long as it was originally designed to be, and it will take as long to ride as your speed determines. Be careful not to schedule by time unless you are sure you mean to! If you schedule by time, then the ride always takes as long as is scheduled, no matter how fast your speed. This means you will go further if you ride faster, but may not complete the entire course. Scheduling by time is useful for straight forward training sessions where the course tends to be an artificial one, like a simple slope or stepped gradient. Rides scheduled by distance can be exported to a GPX file for importing into other systems, like Strava or Golden Cheetah, but rides schedule by time cannot. 2) the Bkool simulator Which you actually use to control the trainer during the actual training sessions. You will be prompted (when you start the simulator) to install updates when they are available. Currently available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, if you have a choice of platform, it appears that the Windows software is most stable, and the tablet software can be quite problematic, although this can change with regular releases of the simulator software. You will likely need ANT+ support for whatever platform you use. The Bkool Pro comes with a USB ANT+ adapter which should work with Windows or Mac OS X. For Android you may be able to use a USB to Go adapter. For iOS (iPad/iPhone) you will require a Wahoo Fitness ANT+ key and probably a lightning to 30 pin adapter, both of which can be quite expensive. The Bkool One appears to support Bluetooth Smart as well as ANT+, which implies that the simulator can link using Bluetooth, but as this is not a Smart Trainer the support will likely be limited to just picking up basic sensor information. 3) the trainer firmware (and hardware). If you are using a Bkool trainer, they have occasional updates to the firmware which controls the trainer hardware directly, either to fix problems or to add features. You will be prompted when there is an updated firmware to apply, but this process is notoriously problematic. You will need to place the ANT+ dongle really close, literally almost touching the trainer, before it will apply reliably. If this still doesn't work it may be that you have an issue with your hardware, and many users have had to return there hardware to get this fixed. It is worth ensuring that you are using the latest firmware and are not stuck on an old version, before any warranty lapses. Don't confuse the version of the simulator, displayed via Settings -> About Bkool Indoor at the top of the page (v2.53 on 21/12/15) with the version of the firmware, which is tucked away under the Sensors section much further down. When last checked the firmware for the Bkool Pro was v3.6 (3.06). Using the Simulator There are many rides that you can select directly from the simulator, if you are happy to choose from the Sessions available in the various tabs. The different tabs list only up to 20 rides, even if more are available. If the ride you want is not in the first 20, you can use the "Filter" at the bottom to filter the list by Distance, Time or Difficulty level, or click on the right arrow to get to advanced search, where you can search for rides by course name (or part of) or the name of the person who started the ride. The Live tab shows the most recently started (by any bkool member) rides that are still in progress (or warm up), and you can join them if you wish to. If the ride has already started you can join at the beginning or just behind the last rider. The Programmed tab shows rides that you have scheduled, or have been scheduled for you (say by a League that you are a member of). The Velodrome Games tab allows you to select one of the various Game formats available. The League tab allows you to start your own ride from one of the currently active League sessions, either scheduled automatically or if you have challenged or otherwise scheduled a league ride. See Riding with Others ... The Plan tab shows sessions from any training plan you have set-up. The Favorites tab shows sessions you have previously flagged as one of your favorites. There are also Latest, Latest videos, Picks and Suggested tabs, where you will find Sessions to ride pre-selected by Bkool. The Mine, Group and Friends tabs have sessions created by you, groups that you are a member of or your Bkool friends. You can start a session from any other the tabs, or choose Details to see more about the session. Here you can click on Set-Up to tweak the set up to allow or disable bots, ghosts, Actual atmospheric conditions and/or Real wind or use slope reduction to make any slopes easier to ride. The latter function is not available for league rides. You can also add a password to a ride, if you want to exclude other riders who do not know the password. By default you get Actual Atmospheric conditions (Real weather) enabled, which may not be want you want, as at certain times of the year this can mean you are often riding in simulated darkness. You may wish to use Details and Set-up to disable Actual atmospheric conditions before clicking on the Start button. Display options include a Solo Mode, which must be disabled if you want to ride with other Players, even bots and/or ghosts. If you want to show opponents in the video mode (overlaid on the video) this can be enabled here, as can a Full screen mode. 3D options allow you to modify parameters such as the quality, perspective and distance to the horizon. If your hardware is struggling to create the 3D views you may be able to turn down some of the settings here. Settings Before riding, you can adjust simulator options by clicking on Settings. Here you can adjust the device pairing to select the trainer or sensors (cadence, heart rate, etc.) if you wish. This defaults to Auto device pairing and will select the optimum sensors it can detect. This should be all you need, but if it does not work as you would wish, you can select Manual device pairing to take more control over it. You can also adjust Display, Sound and 3D options, including default views, quality levels, volume, etc. Riding with Others Bkool really comes to life when you start to ride with others, and the motivation gained by riding with others of similar ability and being able to discuss your rides here in this forum have helped many to train more regularly and see great improvements in fitness and ability. 1) Don't expect to take part in any multi-player sessions unless you have a current premium subscription. 2) You have to make sure that you have not ticked the "solo" ride setting to see other players, ghosts, etc. 3) 3D works best for multi-player sessions, video for long solo rides so you have something to look at. 4) Unless you are nominated to start the multi-player session, always look for the session on the Live tab in the simulator. Do not start your own session. If you cannot see the session you may have to use the advanced find to look for the league name or the name of the starter. 5) Stop pedalling before the warm up ends, as you cannot start until your cadence is registered as zero. 6) If someone else started the session, the session can start unexpectedly if they stop pedalling before the countdown ends, so be prepared for an early start. Drafting It is possible, and desirable, to draft other riders, although just as in real life this can be difficult to maintain and will require some practice and a degree of co-operation. Fortunately, the consequences of getting it wrong are much less than in real life! To draft you have to sit close behind the other rider, the closer you are the bigger the advantage, but if you get too close you will move to one side to overtake and loose the draft. When you start to draft it shows a little pictorial at the top of the simulation and as you get closer you can see the affect increase. Drafting works by reducing the resistance as you gain shelter from the draft, therefore it is easier to maintain the same speed, and you have to be careful not to increase speed and overtake the person you are trying to draft. Drafting more than one rider is easier, and a group of 3 or more riders can give a dramatic reduction in effort required, for all but the rider at the front. If you gain a benefit from drafting, remember to return the favour if you have the strength to take a turn at the front! Joining Groups There have been several questions about what groups/leagues we currently have. These groups are to encourage social interaction on this forum, and so are restricted to people who are active on this forum! Use the links below to request to join. Then please post your bkool name in the Joining a riding group on Bkool thread to let us know who you are: https://www.cyclechat.net/threads/joining-a-riding-group-on-bkool.190255/ Currently active Bkool "Cyclechat" groups Chaingang - Weekly Thurs evening rides, starts @7pm, repeat on Sat @5pm Aimed at getting a large group riding (in 3D) at the same time (rides can be done at other times if you can't make the group rides). Mixed terrain to suit a wide range of abilities and there is generally someone of similar ability to race/ride with. Drafting is encouraged! http://www.bkool.com/group/show/72022 Handicap Chase - Weekly Tues evening rides, start @8pm. Staggered Starts based on a Handicap from previous performances. You need to obtain a Handicap before each session. These are designed to make the finish as close as possible, to give everyone a chance of glory. http://www.bkool.com/group/show/136405 Mountain Goats - aimed at people who like long steep alpine climbs http://www.bkool.com/group/show/75682 Mountain Moose - Longish less steep climbs for the larger rider http://www.bkool.com/group/show/112763 Top 100 - Most of the UK Top 100 climbs, usually short and always steep http://www.bkool.com/group/show/105919 For those who's Bkool username is very different to their Cyclechat username, it can be helpful for the rest of us if you have your Bkool username in your custom title, or failing that in a signature. The custom title is the little phrase that appears under your cyclechat avatar... You can set this in your Profile under Personal Details Leagues 1) If it does not have a league symbol (a little cup) next to the session/result then it is not a league session! 2) If you open a league to see the list of sessions available. Scroll down the list to the one you want. There are 2 ways to select it. Copy : Which copies the session to your scheduled events. This is the one you want. To Favorites : Which copies the session to your favorites list. Do this if you want to ride it outside of the league. Alternatively, you can find a posted league result you would like to compete with and challenge that result, to get a league session with a ghost of the rider with that result. Go to your schedule and you should see, in the list, the session you have just chosen, with a cup symbol beside it, with the current days date. On my list it is usually the last one/s with the current date (you also have other league participants scheduled sessions in your list). 3) If you want to add ghosts to your league ride you may be able to do it here (reportedly it doesn't always work). 4) Open bsim and go to the leagues tab and you should find your league session there. 5) If you miss a league stage you will be given a time equal to the slowest rider for that stage plus an additional 5% of that time (i.e. 105% of the slowest riders time). This will allow you to still be included in the league results even if you do not complete all the stages, although it will disadvantage fast riders considerably, depending on who else completes the stage you miss. Bkool Fitness Level The bkool fitness levels are an arbitrary division of FTP as 95% of 20 minute average power per Kg, broken down into four categories and 10 sub categories: Amateur 1-10, Active 1-10, Pro 1-10 and Elite 1-10. Mens Womens The official FTP test is scheduled from the Fitness Level of your Bkool Profile (this only works if you are a premium member) and your fitness level will be determined using 95% of the average power from this 20 minute session, not including the additional warm up time. Note: the test may look like it is longer, but it stops automatically at 20 minutes. If you do not do regular FTP tests your fitness level will be determined using 95% of the average power from any session over 30 minutes. Perhaps strangely, the 95% factor is still applied, even if the session is an hour or more. If the session includes any steep inclines, or any declines, it is less likely that this will give a good measure of your actual FTP, for a more accurate reading the official FTP test uses a constant 2% incline. If you save a proper Bkool FTP test which gives a lower fitness level then your fitness level will be reduced immediately, but this only happens for normal 30 min+ sessions if you have not saved an FTP for two months. FTP = Functional Threshold Power By definition this is the maximum average power you can sustain for an hour, and is considered to be a good match for the power output at which you are on the threshold of producing more lactate than your body can deal with, your Lactate Threshold. The FTP test on bkool actually measures the average power over 20 minutes, as an hour is a bit of a slog. You are supposed to apply a correction by taking 95% of the 20 minute figure to approximate the hour average, and hence 95% of your average power on the 20 minute FTP test gives an approximation for your FTP, which should be close to your Lactate Threshold. Note: your FTP is not the result of the 20 minute FTP test, it is close to 95% of the result. Your FTP is often quoted in Watts per Kg, which is considered a more useful measure of ability, especially when climbing, so divide the 95% figure by your weight in Kg. For more accurate estimates of FTP, you can average your power over the full hour, and in either case you should precede the test with around 10 minutes of above FTP effort to exhaust any anaerobic capacity, i.e. your bodies ability to exceed your LT for short periods of time. End of FAQ Feel free to reply with anything you think should be added to this list, I'll edit it and add anything appropriate and whatever else I can find from our mega-thread!